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Children gather around the tree during a past Christmas Spectacular. Courtesy photo.




See the Peacock Players Christmas Spectacular

When: Friday, Dec. 19, at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 20, at 2 and 7 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 21, at 2 p.m.
Where: Janice B. Streeter Theater, 14 Court St., Nashua
Admission: $10 to $17
Contact: 886-7000, peacockplayers.org




Coming home
Peacock Players young and old in Christmas Spectacular

12/18/14
By Kelly Sennott ksennott@hippopress.com



Peacock Players kids enjoy their time with the youth theater company so much, a good portion of alumni usually come back to sing for its Christmas Spectacular event.

Held every other year (alternating with Peacock’s A Christmas Carol), the two-hour performance is more like a concert that resembles the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. Current Peacock Players students, resident artists, staff camp counselors and alumni come together and present a variety of holiday songs, from traditional classics to lesser-known numbers. 
Artistic Director Keith Weirich calls it a revuesical.
“We’ve developed our own musical revue that will help pay homage to the sacred and secular carols, but there really is a wealth of really pretty Christmas music people don’t get to hear very often,” Weirich said in a phone interview. “Idina Menzel and Clay Aiken and new recording artists are writing [and singing] new Christmas music out there, stuff you don’t always hear while you’re shopping.”
The songs are tied together with a loose concept. A large, naked Christmas tree sits at the center of the stage, and during each number, singers come out and add decorations. 
The cast is humongous, made up of about 70 performers ranging in age from 5 to adult, but unlike in a musical, there aren’t just a handful of featured voices. 
“It’s almost completely comprised of feature soloists,” Weirich said. “It’s really helping them from an educational standpoint. Nobody teaches you good microphone technique. … There are hundreds of students who fill out the ensembles in shows who could absolutely be featured soloists because they have unique talents in their own right. This is a way to showcase a number of artists, and I like that we’re not only hearing from the same group of kids.”
Most of those solos will be performed in medleys.
“There’s a secular medley, so we can cover all the different aspects of Christmas. Then there’s a whole medley about coming home for the holidays — and in some cases, there are literally people who will be stepping off the bus and coming to the theater to do the show,” Weirich said. 
One returning alumnus is Danny Shea, who studies acting at the University of Hartford. Another is Nate Healey, who also studies at Hartford. Both began performing with Peacock Players when very young, about 11 years old. 
In fact, they performed in their first Spectacular together.
“We were 11 and sang an Alvin and the Chipmunks song,” Shea said. “We brought helium balloons onstage that matched the color of our shirts.”
Shea says a large portion of alumni usually decide to study theater after high school — of his Peacock Players class of 15, only about five majored in something else.
But students of all majors come back to perform; if they aren’t at the concert, it’s usually because they physically can’t make it due to scheduling conflicts. The ones who do perform will be clad in their college swag.
“For me personally, I owe a lot of my training to Peacock. I feel like I owe it to younger generations to come back and share what I’ve learned,” Shea said. 
Weirich allows students to pitch songs they’d like to sing, which makes the production new each time. Most songs have a loose holiday theme — they have to do with winter, Christmas or Hanukkah, but some stand alone or tackle a theme about the holidays, like last year’s “Seasons of Love” from Rent.
“It’s very family-friendly — rated G for all audiences. It’s funny and heartfelt. It runs the gamut,” Weirich said. “I find it particularly inspiring because it’s a lot of young voices. Christmas is really, I think, most accessible for the young, and it reminds us why we spend time together and why we give gifts, and the joy and magic of Christmas.” 
 
As seen in the December 18, 2014 issue of the Hippo.





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